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Poster: Jim F Date: Nov 29, 2010 10:08pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: billy k.

As much as I love Billy, who is perhaps my favorite drummer of all time, ironically I've never really been a fan of his drum solo's sans Mickey. 99.9% of the time I skip them. I find that the tandem drum duets are far more thrilling, though I often usually skip those as well. It all depends on the listening environment I am in.

Being primarily a 1970's listener (I listen to a lot of 60's too, but drum solos are pretty rare in that era), I find drums to be kindof dull when done by one guy on a trap kit. I can usually deal with a couple of minutes, but stuff like the drawn out 78 style 20 minute drum jams were just too much. I personally feel that it really took a couple of years for the whole 2nd set Drums>Space thing to really start getting good and interesting. But either way, for me, drums solos are usually always great when you're AT a concert, but they don't really translate well on tape.

Conversely, when I do dip into the early 80's, and rarely the late 80's and 90's, it is often the drums (and space) segment that is the best part of a show for me. I don't like the sound of much of the material from the 80's and 90's for reasons like who handled the vocals and how they sounded (ie Garcia's "froggy" take on things circa 1985), the basic structure and arrangements of many of the older songs, too much "new" or "80's and 90's" material that I just don't like, and the style of jamming, or generally lack thereof.

To me it feels like a lot of the best jammy tunes got short shrifted in those years, as the bulk of the heavy improv and deep space was reserved for the predictable and formulaic 2nd set drums/space position (though while at times absolutely boring, they could also be absolutely brilliant). I think I preferred it when space and/or thematic jamming was internally done within a song (or between songs) like you would find in the late 60's on up to 1974 on things like DStar, Other One, Playin, Weather Report, and even Eyes to an extent, etc.

There is a little bit of that built in, "gear changing" space and thematic jamming going on in 76, then it almost just completely disappears in 1977. It is revived in early 78 with the "Noble Experiment" of trios with the drummers found on the January West Coast run with stuff like the Close Encounters jam from 1/22/78. Then, for whatever reason, by April the band decided to throw in those interminably long drum solos with everybody beating on various drums, which generally wound down into one or two minutes of some spacey-ish noodling by Jerry, with the rest of the band occasionally chiming in. And then you usually find yourself in ballad land.

Anyway this is supposed to be about Billy K drum solos, not my thoughts and opinions on the pros, and especially cons, of the "modern" and predictable format in the Dead's setlists during the last 15 or so years of their existence. OK, back to Billy...

Don't get me wrong, he could really beat some skins, but for me they are generally just a few minutes of cocaine-paced pounding that stand in my way before a good Other One. I think at the time, they were less about Billy wanting to show off his talents and more about giving the other guys a chance to piss or smoke or tuneup or something.

Damn I started writing this hours ago but forgot about it. I don't have anything more to say, I already said enough. Wish I could think of a good Billy K drums solo for you, but to me they all pretty much sound the same so I can't even narrow it down.

Though while they aren't drum solos so to speak, some of my favorite of Billy's work is during the Dark Stars and Other Ones from 72-73 where out of a space or something you find just Billy and Phil playing together, that is magical. 5/11/72 comes to mind. There are other shows where it's just Billy and Jerry, or Weir, but I can't pick them all out offhand.

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Poster: Dudley Dead Date: Nov 30, 2010 7:49am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: billy k.

I'm with you on this one . Those "Bird Song"s , deserve special mention . I don't alway get excited with what they came up with durring the "drums" segement, but It could be some of the best music at a show . I think Billy is best playing with others . I recently saw the 7 Walkers, and he didn't do any "solos", just played wonderfully .

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Poster: midnightcarousel Date: Nov 30, 2010 7:40am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: billy k.

Great post, Jim, I really enjoyed reading it in spite of the fact that I disagree with almost everything you said! Which really is a compliment, actually.

I think Billy is hands down the better drummer. He and Mickey had slightly different roles, or at least that's what other people have said; Billy seems to be more of the backbone in terms of keeping the beat, while Mickey likes to adorn the music with percussive "touches". But none of their (pardon my language) bullshit 20 minute drum duets from the 80s even comes close to a 4- or 5- minute lead in to an Other One from 1972. There's just no comparison. Billy's playing was tight and had serious bones, but I find lots of the later drum duets incredibly boring. Of course I think that has something to do with length, but come on, 20 minutes?!?!?! Give me a break.

I know you weren't saying anything about Billy vs. Mickey per se, but rather you liked both of them better than just Billy. But I've always pined for the possibility of Billy remaining their only drummer. I think the music would have blossomed more fully, and the band might have remained a lot tighter instead of dwindling into eventual lameness.

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Poster: Jim F Date: Dec 3, 2010 9:53pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: billy k.

Well thank ya. But you are slightly misunderstanding me, kinda. My favorite era of GD is probably Billy by himself (I say "probably" because who doesn't love the 60's? But that tandem drumming I find is much different than what came post-hiatus). I wouldn't say that I like the two together more than just Billy, as my primary listening goes to 71-74. When it comes to drum solos, I like the two together better than just Billy. But in general, I much prefer the Billy solo years.

I agree that imo, Billy is the better drummer. I like post-74 hiatus GD, but Billy was a true beast from 71-74, and I understand those who feel that something was actually lost rather than gained when Mickey came back. Though I think their devolution into "lameness" would have happened with or without Mickey. I'm obviously not an 80's and 90's guy... I guess what I was saying is that the kindof improv I like is rarely found in the later years, or rather is only found in the drums>space segment.

I was a bit harsh about Billy's solos just getting in the way of a good Other One. you're right, there is nothing like when Billy starts pounding out that unmistakable beat, then Phil joining in and that *CHARGE* into the Other One. Though you could also say good things about Other One drum intros like 1/22/78.

This post was modified by Jim F on 2010-12-04 05:53:46

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Poster: midnightcarousel Date: Dec 4, 2010 6:37am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: billy k.

People have been saying good things about 1/22/78 lately, and I've never listened to it because I generally don't like that year, but I clearly need to check it out.

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Poster: Jim F Date: Dec 5, 2010 12:54am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: billy k.

Oh man, it's definitely worth checking out! Every show from January is quite unique for a year full of predictable and repetitive setlists, and each have something to offer. I could list the highlights, but it'd just be my subjective opinion (DEFINITELY check out the Let it Grow from...damn, I forget, I think it's 1/11? Yeah, that sounds right...maybe it's 1/14...either way, it's probably my favorite post-74 LIGrow).

1/22 is clearly the top of the tour. The Other One through to the end of the show is delicious and fantastic. And of course there's that Close Encounters jam...I haven't been diving into 77 in a looooong time, and 78 even moreso (or would that be "less so?"), but if I'm going to reach for a '78, odds are 90% of the time it's going to be a show from January, probably 1/22.

And to stress my point even more, I'm honestly not even that big a 1978 fan (don't get me wrong, there are a lot of highlights that year, but it's just not a year I visit too often). While I like a lot of stuff from 78-81, 78 is usually my cutoff (I like to quote David Lemiuex I think it was who said "After 2/5/78, it's all fluff."). But I can get into any of those January jams any time.

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